The Wonder of The Giants Causeway

The Giants Causeway – A Must See in Northern Ireland

Basalt columns everywhere

Up on the rugged coast of Northern Ireland about two hours north of Belfast is a geological wonder and a World Heritage Site named The Giants Causeway. The unusual formation was born of natural processes 65 million years ago, when Northern Ireland was subjected to major volcanic activity. During this period, molten basalt came into contact with chalk beds, forming a lava plateau. Because the lava cooled quickly, the plateau contracted and cracked, forming about 40,000 similar sized hexagonal columns of varying heights that look like giant stepping stones much like someone constructed them. The largest pilers stand over 35 feet tall.

40,000 columns cover the site
They climb the landscape

The site is really spectacular and we weren’t disappointed in making the trip even though the weather could have been a whole lot better. There is a good visitors center, a well paved road down to the Causeway, a bus shuttle and a number of food and refreshment venues near the site.

According to Irish legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The legend goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill, of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the sea so that the two giants could fight. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than he is. To save him Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him into a giant cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the “baby”, he realizes that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn would be unable to chase him down. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, adding additional confirmation to the legend.

 

We visited the Giants Causeway in May and the weather was a balmy 42° and clouds were gathering quickly. From the visitors center down to the shore is a good steep walk and while there is a shuttle bus, on a busy day the wait in line for the ride is probably much longer than the actual walk – so off we hiked. Our thinking was that we would walk downhill and ride back. Once we got to the bottom it started a light rain with wind picking up to 40 or 50 mph. Unfortunately we weren’t the only ones thinking about riding back and the wait was almost an hour for the return bus. Soon the temperature seemed to plummet and we started back climbing up the hill. I swear there was sleet stinging my face and at one point the wind got inside my hood and I swear it lifted me off my feet.

Once we reached the top we sought refuge in the bar of the Causeway Inn. It was a cozy place and much less congested than other options. We and our travel companions all had coffee and scones, spending a long time thawing out in the comfort of the lounge. Sitting next to us was a local family and we got to talking. Asking if they had hiked down yet they replied “Oddly no, and we live here. We’re waiting here keeping cozy while our guests freeze their noses off.” I understood but if we lived here we’d hike the area regularly but maybe not on a chilly and windy day. While it is an amazing place and we would recommend a visit, if we had the option of waiting for a warm and sunny day?!

One of the biggest issues to a planned itinerary with a limited amount of time is you don’t get to make many changes and you are stuck with the weather that fate deals you.

We could also see the ruins of Dunluce Castle not far from The Giants Causeway. We were told that this area was also used in a number of Game of Thrones episodes. We seem to keep running into Game of Thrones locations everywhere from Dubrovnik to Iceland here in Northern Ireland and Spain and we’re beginning to think that we are either just lucky or perhaps they film everywhere?

 

Advertisements

A First Try at Seeing The Emerald Isle

Visiting Ireland On a Rainy Spring Trip

Our first visit to Ireland was this past spring. Most people rave about this lush, green island and we now understand why. I’m not sure if it’s the sense of place, the history or the Irish people but we will surely be back again. This trip we spent eight days traveling around Ireland with an agenda that included Cobh, Waterford, East Dunmore, Cork (including Blarney), Dublin and Belfast.

The Emerald Isle is divided into two parts; the Republic of Ireland in the south (actually about eighty percent of the island) with Northern Ireland in the northeast, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland is an independent nation and a member of the EU and uses the Euro. Northern Ireland because of Brexit uses the English Pound. It seems that Brexit created a new riff between the two Irelands and could create new tension going forward. Most of the towns and cities are located along the east coast with high cliffs facing out into the Atlantic on the west coast.

Cobh, The Seaport of Cork

 

Before visiting Cobh we inquired about the weather. The response was “it’s a beautiful day here with just a light rain and a high of 46°”. Welcome to the Emerald Isle.

Because of the rainy weather we spent the first day in Cobh, which is the seaport that serves Cork. It’s a picturesque town with many streets that seem to be running up hills at about forty-five degrees. The principle business seems to be celebrating the fact that the Titanic made its last port of call here. There’s the Titanic Pub, the Titanic Museum and gift shop and memorials to many of the one hundred and thirty passengers that boarded the Titanic here just before it steamed into the Atlantic and history. One pub claimed that several Titanic passengers had their last pint ashore in their pub before sailing (that would be one hundred six years ago) and who can refute that?

 

A monument to a local celebrity is on the pier in front of the visitors center. It is of Annie Moore who is confirmed as the first Irish immigrant to the United States that arrived at Ellis Island. The statue shows her and two younger brothers on the pier as if they are ready to set off on their new life in America.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The city also has the gorgeous St. Colman’s Cathedral which was started in 1867 but not finished for almost fifty years. The cathedral tower contains the largest carillon in Europe with forty-nine bells. The bells strike on the hour and at fifteen minute intervals and plays a longer program for Sunday Mass and on special events.

Cobh is the end of a train line with easy access to Cork for only a couple of Euros with trains leaving about every twenty minutes. The trip takes less than a half hour with continuing service on to Blarney just a few minutes farther away.

All in all it was a great first Irish day and I realized that to make English a really beautiful language it needs to be spoken with an Irish accent.

East Dunmore, A Seaside Village

This Irish fishing village isn’t far from Waterford and is a quant seaside resort town with a number of bed and breakfasts and upscale hotels. We visited on a Saturday and there seemed to be a surprising number of people in town and at the beach considering there was still a chill in the air. We spent the day walking the coastal trail and visiting the galleries and craft shops.

A Day Trip Out of Belfast

The Giants Causeway

Up on the North coast of Northern Ireland is a geological World Heritage Site named The Giants Causeway. It was created when volcanic magma cooled on the surface millions of years ago and looks much like someone constructed it. It is composed of thousands of basalt hexagonal columns standing in clusters at various heights along the edge of the sea.

When we got to the site the weather was a balmy 42° and clouds were gathering quickly. From the visitors center down to the shore is a good steep walk and while there is a shuttle bus, on a busy day the wait in line for the ride is probably longer than the walk – so off we hiked. Once we got to the bottom it started a light rain with wind blowing at 40 or 50 mph. The temperature also seemed to plummet and when climbing back up I swear there was sleet stinging my face. At one point the wind got inside my hood and it seemed it lifted me off my feet.

 

Once we reached the top we sought refuge in the bar of the Causeway Inn. It was a cozy place and much less congested than the other options. We all had coffee and scones and spent a long time thawing out. Sitting next to us was an Irish family and we got to talking. Asking if they had hiked down yet they replied “No, we live here. We’re staying here keeping cozy while our guests freeze their noses off.” I couldn’t agree more. While it is an amazing place and we would recommend a visit, if we had the option of waiting for a warm and sunny day?!

One of the biggest issues to a planned itinerary with a limited amount of time is you don’t get to change much and you are stuck with the weather that fate deals you. 

DSCN4986Ruins of Dunluce Castle near The Giants Causeway

It would also seem that this area is also used in a number of Game of Thrones episodes. We are beginning to think that we are either just lucky to keep running into GOT sights or perhaps they film just about everywhere?